Saskatoon Police say icy roads are to blame after a vehicle went off the North Circle Drive Bridge and into the South Saskatchewan River.
A 23-year-old woman was travelling eastbound when she lost control of her Acura and went over the edge of the bridge just before 1 p.m. CST on Monday.
A police investigation determined that the driver lost control because of icy conditions and collided with the centre barrier on the bridge, before swerving back and then ending up on the top of the guardrail. The vehicle then left the bridge and fell to the icy river below.
Police are also blaming a build-up of ice and snow along the bridge's guardrail for sending the vehicle into the river.
Speed and alcohol are not considered to be factors in the crash. Police said the driver will not be charged.
The woman managed to climb out to the roof of the car on her own and then onto the river ice as her car sunk into the water. Police said a Saskatoon resident was also responsible for helping the woman from the ice.
"The car is still in the river, it's submerged now," said Marc DeGirolamo with Saskatoon Fire and Protective Services. "So we probably won't be getting it out anytime soon."
Saskatoon crash may lead to snow clearing changes
A similar accident happened on Winnipeg's Perimeter Highway five years ago. The crash led the Manitoba government to mandate snow clearing from bridge decks — guardrail to guardrail — 72 hours after a snowfall on priority roads.
In some parts of the United States crews start to clear snow while it's still falling.
"They clear all the guardrails, they clear the turnouts, they clear out all the runoff areas just to make sure they're free of debris. And in this instance by running the rotaries, it's a square-edged cut and it literally leaves the guardrails in full effect," said Chad Dornsife, executive director at the Best Highway Safety Practices Institute in the U.S.
In Saskatoon crews are in the process of clearing the snow from the bridge guardrail, and also looking at the state of other bridge roadways.
The problem is, three years ago the province made a rule that cities couldn't plough snow laden with sand and salt into waterways, such as the South Saskatchewan River. That policy is slowing down snow clearing efforts on bridges and leading to dangerous conditions that contributed to Monday's crash.
"We're always looking at ways to make things better," said Eric Quail with Saskatoon Public Works. "When unfortunate incidents like this happen we want to learn from it, move forward and correct it so it doesn't happen again."